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Andria Friesen Forged Unique Relationship with Art
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Tuesday, December 21, 2021
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

When Yoko Ono chose Friesen Gallery as one of seven worldwide to show her art, gallery owner Andria Friesen found herself disliking one piece so much that she deliberately put it behind a door so viewers could barely see it.

But, as Ono described the story behind the painting, Friesen found herself moved to tears—touched so deeply that she purchased the piece for her own collection.

Art has never been about the oil splashed across the canvas for Andria Friesen as much as it is the story behind each painting.

During 35 years as a gallery owner, she has deliberately kept her roster of artists small so she can share every detail of their work with prospective buyers.

“I’ve learned that it’s important to know where your art comes from, who created it, what they were thinking,” she said.  

Friesen is bringing her own story as an art gallery owner to a close this coming week as she hands over the keys of her Ketchum gallery to Yanna Lantz, her trusted manager for the past four years. Lantz, who came to Ketchum as a member of The Spot theater company, is renaming the gallery Friesen + Lantz Fine Art to honor Friesen’s legacy.

“I am sincerely touched that Yanna Lantz, the Gallery’s new owner, has included my name in the identity of her adventure,” said Friesen. Though I shall have no ownership, I very much look forward to continuing to work with clients, institutions and museum.”

Friesen knew nothing about art when she ventured from her childhood home in Minneapolis to Las Vegas where she found work in a gallery.

“The art in our home was comprised of a poster of a clock on the living room wall,” she said. “I did not grow up around fine art or fine anything.”

But Friesen quickly became hooked and in 1986 she opened up a gallery in a building across the street from her current gallery.

“Art is such a world of imagination and emotion. And, once you get a little, you want more,” she said. “Somewhere, you become the middle person in between the person who created the work and the one who wants to know about it. And you realize it’s not a decoration—someone is going to wake up every morning and be immersed in it.”

Friesen chose to open her gallery in Sun Valley sight unseen after reviewing brochures Chambers sent of Key West, Tahoe and Sun Valley in the mail in the days before the Internet.

“I knew I wanted to be in a resort town because, when people are on vacation, they’re in a different frame of mind. People in a relationship are together. They don’t say, ‘I’ll try to bring my husband in.’ I’ve always said:  Mount Baldy does half the work for us.”

Ketchum had only one traffic signal when Friesen came. It had just four galleries—Kneeland, Gail Severn, Anne Reed and Claudia McCain’s River Run gallery, in addition to the then-Sun Valley Center for the Arts. Buyers wanted landscapes and locally painted art.

Friesen reached out to several artists who had caught her eye while in Las Vegas. She has represented one of them--Lawrence Fodor—for all of her 35 years. In fact, Fodor has provided a series of mixed media oil paintings he’s called “Increscent” for her last exhibition.

“It’s the perfect title for this final exhibition, for so many reasons,” said Friesen. “First, like Fodor’s work ‘increscent’ is not mainstream. It’s exquisite, evocative and intriguing and its definition is a sublime metaphor for our relationship. Each work in ‘Increscent’ is a testament, a thread-carrier of all that we have spanned and addressed in our lives together.”

In 1990 Friesen opened a second gallery in Seattle near Pike’s Place Market, inspired by Sun Valley’s part-time Seattle residents. The gallery went on to be named Seattle Best Art Gallery in Seattle Weekly’s Best of Seattle poll in 2005.  

She’s represented both established contemporary artists and emerging artists at both. Venetian glass master Lino Tagliapietra showed his exquisite glass works with her. And she’s represented William Morris, Christopher Brown, Steve Jensen and Tom Lieber longer than any other gallery, cementing her  credibility in the art world.

“It thrills me that artists have chosen to trust me and my staff with their names,” she said. “I’ve worked with so many amazing people, and the artists want to come here.

“I love that their art comes from the heart. And I showcase what I personally like. I’m not going to take money from you for something I wouldn’t buy.”

Just a few months after Friesen opened her current gallery, the automatic locks on the building malfunctioned locking an elbow-to-elbow crowd in during a jam-packed Gallery Walk.

“I remember saying, ‘Everybody stay calm,’ even though I wasn’t,” Friesen recalled.

Another time the power went out during a Gallery Walk for a notable glass exhibition, leaving the building pitch black. Fortunately, Friesen said, no one bumped into one of the pieces during the blackout.

Over the years, Friesen collaborated with other gallery owners to create a Sun Valley Art Forum that brought some of the leading visionaries of the art world to Sun Valley. And she once invited a fellow gallery owner to put on an exhibit of her artists at her Seattle gallery—something practically unheard of in a competitive business.

“I’ve been delighted to use the building space for the community—for wedding receptions, fundraising gatherings, the Family of Woman Film Festival,” said Friesen. “We had a play produced here one time. And we’ve had some amazing dinners here on behalf of the Sun Valley Wine Auction.

“Art is a magnet, a force to congregate around.”

For years Friesen joked that she lived on Horizon Air because she spent so much time flying between her gallery in Seattle and Sun Valley. But she sold the Seattle gallery a few years ago.

“Thirty-five years is a long time to have an art gallery. But it’s a whole new art world, thanks to such things as social media,” she said. “The new generation has new ways of contemplating acquisitions. I want for my artists to have that youth, that vision, that new school because that’s what’s going to take their careers to the next level.”

All of the artists Friesen represents with the exception of three said yes to continuing under Lantz.

“The three exceptions said, ‘Hell yes,’ ” Friesen quipped. “I plan to work as a consultant—I’m not going away. And I’m going to find out what I like to do for fun. I don’t have a clue, but I am going to find out.”

Lantz, like Friesen, sees visual arts as an extension of the storytelling that she cherishes in her theater work.

“Like Andria, I feel I’m telling the story of these artists and their careers,” she said. “I couldn’t be more excited as I look towards the future.”

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